Spring Poem by Edna St Vincent Millay Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “Spring” is written by the poet Edna St Vincent Millay, an American poet. The poem depicts the life after the end of World War I and through this poem, the poetess has also hinted about the changes in the life after breaking her relationship with Arthur Davison Ficke. Both Millay and Arthur met in 1918 and fell in love with each other. This poem was published in a collection named “Second April” in 1921.

About the poet:

Edna St Vincent Millay is an American lyrical poet and playwright.She is a renowned feminist. Under the pseudonym Nancy Boyd she contributed much of her prose and verse. Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her poem “Ballad of the Harp-Weaver“. Millay was the second woman to win the “Frost Medal” for her lifetime contribution to American Poetry.


The poem “Spring” is a free verse poem. Thus it lacks rhyme scheme and metrical form. There are 18 lines in total. Yet, the poet has not separated them into stanzas. The length of the lines are irregular.

Point of view:

The poem “Spring” is written from a first person point of view. The poet herself is the speaker of the poem. She is addressing the month of April in this poem. It is evident from the following lines.

To what purpose, April, do you return again?


The poet is the speaker herself in the poem. Through this poem, the poet is describing the season of spring. She is addressing aApril and questions her about her sole purpose. This poem is written after World war I which is evident in the poem lines. The poet mentions the bodies buried underground. On the other hand she is also talking about the pain after ending a relationship with her loved one. So, she feels “April” as a person who is trying to comfort her.

Through the last lines, she talks about life and compares it to an empty cup and uncarpeted stairs. Through this comparison she is indicating the nature of life. She feels the time period of Spring is not enough for rebirth or renewal in the lives of people. So, she accuses the season as an idiot to come every year.

Lines 1-5

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness

Of little leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.

The speaker of the poem is addressing April. The speaker asks what is the purpose of April to come every year. She says that she could see the redness of leaves and blooming flowers. Yet, the beauty alone is not enough for her to accept April in her life. She couldn’t get rid of the past memories from World War I. 

Lines 6-10:

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?

The speaker describes how the sunlight hits her neck when she is observing the spikes of the crocus. Here the phrase, the spike of the crocus signifies the pain of love. The speaker of the poem loved the fragrance of the earth which smelled good. It indicates that the war has ended and there is no death. But the speaker asks April what she is trying to signify with these symbols.

Lines 11-18:

Not only under ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,


Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

The descriptions in this stanza contrasts with the previous one. The speaker talks about the men who died in World War I Buried underground. The picture that they are eaten by maggots depicts the pain behind the earth. Because now she is covering everything with a beautiful season. The speaker says, life is like a cup. Throughout life, we try to fill the cup yet we don’t succeed in it. The speaker also compared life with uncarpeted stairs. Though in life we try to climb the stairs to reach the peace we need. We end up with dirt and pain in climbing the stairs. Now, in the last lines of the poem, the speaker is accusing April for coming like an idiot every year without knowing the pain behind her life. Now, it is clear that though she loves this season she feels it is not enough. She desperately wants more days like April to enjoy life.